Saturday, April 01, 2006

And the Bush Survey Says.......

When Justice Antonin Scalia made an obscene gesture in a Catholic Church the other day, I started thinking about the way that Americans communicate. Hand gestures have been a traditional means to show displeasure, anger, delight, etc. I decided to take a photographic poll of friends and locals to see what kind of gesture or communication, if any, they would like to send to President Bush concerning the way he has handled the Iraq War.

I started by going next door to see my friend and neighbor Mary Principle. I needed to return the iron she lent me about three months ago anyway. When I saw that Baby Principle was sitting in her lap, I decided to get the youth vote and asked him first.

"Baby Principle, what message would you like to send to our President about this war?" He looked up, grinned, drooled a bit and voted with his index finger.

Then I spotted his sweet brother, little Ethan Principle. He's getting to be a big boy, going into school soon and should be knowledgeable about politics by now. Asked him the same question.

Well, this family is in agreement so far. I asked Ethan where his older brother, Peter Principle was. He said Peter was out in the street playing around and riding his new bike.

So, after spending a few minutes getting Mary's answer to my survey, I told her goodbye and trundled out to find him.

OOOPs! Peter Principle was in trouble. I didn't want to interfere with an officer of the law carrying out his duty, which they do quite regularly in my neighborhood, so I shouted my question to little Peter. The little darling gave a sly answer while being interrogated by the nice policeman, something about a stolen bicycle in the neighborhood. Those darn kids!

I even surveyed Officer Smiley as we call him, a pleasant kid-friendly law enforcement officer who always has a cheerful word for everyone.

As he was handcuffing Peter, he had a few minutes to answer my question about the President. His third finger angrily tapped the arrest form. Wow. This day was getting statistically bizarre. Everyone was unhappy with the way Bush is handling the war! Yikes!

So I walked down the street to our neighborhood Zilker Park. It was a lovely day, the birds were singing and I ran into LaTour DeFrance, a neighborhood homeless woman. I often buy her coffee and breakfast, so we are on speaking terms. "Hi, LaTour," I shouted, "how's the day going?

She was a little hung over but basically OK. When I asked her about Bush, she instinctively snarled, went into a fetal crouch and whipped out the bird like a gunslinger on X, "That mofo, he is the definition of evil."

"Now, LaTour, I asked, aren't you being a bit hasty?" I was trying to be pleasant.

"That bastard will be the death of us all," she replied cryptically, and took a swig out of her pocket flask.

I kept walking and saw a giant fire ant mound. Now, they get extra big in Texas, as you may know, and my sister's babysitter, Betty Jo Bob was standing in front of one of the smaller Texas-sized fire ant mounds, enjoying the clean fresh air.

"Hey, Betty Jo Bob," I said, "You are standing way too close to that fire ant mound, your momma's gonna tan your hide if you get bit up. C'mon over here."

She marched right over and I asked her if she had anything she wanted to say to the President to describe his handling of the war. As she scratched lazily, she expressed her opinion for the camera. Well, there it was, another enthusiastic third finger salute.

I thanked her and kept on moving until I saw her brother, Jimmy Jo Bob, on his way with Stinky Elroy over to their National Guard weekend training at Camp Mabry. Well, once again I got the same answer, which surprised me until I remembered he and Elroy were real close friends and Elroy's bother had been perforated to death by mine shrapnel in Iraq because the US government hadn't given him any body armor.

Well, you can see his answer. Shooting his Commander-in-chief a fine proud American eagle. I began to feel like that Greek guy Diogenes who wandered around with a lamp looking for an honest man. Didn't anyone like the way Bush was handling the war?

I took a few minutes to stop in at Roy's duplex by the park. It was still early and from the loud punk/ska sound coming from inside, I could tell they were up and awake. Roy works down at Emo's, a bar on 6th street, as bar back while he goes to college. They let me in and offered me a doobie, in between giggles, which I pleasantly declined, as I told him what I was doing.

The cluttered inside of his duplex was covered in a thick smoky haze. When they finally located their third finger, there was a whole array of photos I took, including some of his friends Ahmed, Hushang and Cho.
I thanked them for their time and their opinion, left them to their silliness and headed home.

Wow. I knew that the Bush was slipping in the polls, but still I was surprised to see the unanimous negative reaction to his war policy. I decided to stop briefly at my new accountant's office to fill out a few forms that he had called me about the day before. I also thought to include my accountant Larry in the survey.

I walked into Larry's office and it was plain he had just returned from his daily four-mile run. He was catching his breath as I explained my mission for the day. He winked and coyly ran his third finger across his face with a look that told me not to push him for further explanation. I signed the forms quickly and moved on.

Then I saw my old high school buddy Mack Rell, just pulling his hog out for a spin. He offered me a ride home and I gladly accepted. I explained what I had been doing all day while putting on a spare helmet.

No point in taking any unecessary chances! He turned and I snapped his picture. Yup, just like all the others. More of the same flip off to Bush. We roared off in a cloud of dust. I got home in one piece and thought about my day.

Looks like Bushco has used up his political capital. I turned on the TV and promptly fell asleep.

Pogo Speaks Up on Pussiliency

The Democrats and all pussilient politicians should examine their inner Okefenokee swamp.

With apologies to Walt Kelly, wherever his soul may rest:

From the foreword to The Pogo Papers, Copyright 1952-53

"The publishers of this book, phrenologists of note, have laid hands upon the author’s head and report the following vibrations:

Herein can be found that rare native tree, the Presidential Timber, struck down in mid-sprout by the jawbone of a politician. Pogo returns to the swamp from a couple of political conventions to find his unfinished business being rapidly finished, once and for all, by rough and ready hands.

Walt Kelly was a genius at what he did, his wry look at the political scene a template for today. Guess it just goes to show that politics has some of the same features in every decade.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Kinky Friedman and Immigration Policy

Glenda in the Land of Oz

Was driving the twisty road into Austin this morning and noticed an SUV in front of me with a bumper sticker that read: Kinky For Governor: Why the Hell Not? I was glad to see that the driver was a traditionalist, as they also touted a Keep Austin Weird bumper sticker. This goobernatorial contest finally has a winner who can acquit himself in the beer-drinking area as well as making purty speeches. To meet Kinky is to love Kinky.

I decided to see how the Future Kinkinator came in on the immigration issue and went to his website. Kinky Friedman is a wise man if not a premier wise-ass. I used to go hear his band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys back in the day. So if you want to read his take, go to his Home Page.

There's a bonus smilin' picture of Lyle Lovett on the cover and you can load up on goodies such as Kinky's Private Stock salsa and tshirts with Kinkwisdom to show that you are a team player.

Now I would expect his salsa to have a real kick, not that watered down slim-pickin's Yankee variety, but something that really makes your teeth hurt right good and your eyeballs salute the morning when you load it up righteously on eggs and grits.

For you car buffs, and who isn't leaping on that bandwagon these days, here is a pic of the Kinky campaign vehicle. Yeah, here is a candidate who not only rides in style, but can talk out of both sides of his cigar with wit and humor.

So vote for Kinky, Why the hell not? Kinky is the salsa in my salad, the salsa on my meatloaf and the salsa in my morning coffee.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Increasing Penalties for Corporations That Hire Illegals Won't Work

Earl wrote some very interesting well-thought out comments in my last post and I want to address this publicly because I have a long answer. I can tell he really cares about this issue and is looking for some sane solutions, as we all are. Earl, please don't think I am picking on you. I'm not, you've been asking all the right questions, thinking outside the box. It's the box that's broke, not you.

Earl, I have been reading and hearing others speak about about putting more pressure on the corporations not to hire illegal immigrant not only from you, but from news sources. Many hope that increasing the penalties on companies will stop them from hiring illegal immigrants. In my previous blog, Earl stated:
Glenda, what you say is probably right if you're talking about local law enforcement. This has to be handled by the Feds, you've got the payroll taxes that the companies pay, and you have the worker's W2s and you have a chance to check for valid social secuirity numbers with SSA. Thats just off the top of my head. The tax data, etc could be mined like the NSA mines telephone and the internet. With a stiff penalty, the corporations would cut back drasticly if punishment was certain. Trying to fake tax and other reports, which could include what documents they examined to check for illegals, the feds have a paper trail that would/could be treated like perjury. If new paperwork would help, then mandate that it be done.

Everyone would need to get serious and work on some solution instead of making points for the next election.
God, I feel so cynical. See, you are right. That SHOULD work and every logical fiber of my being wants to agree. However, although I wish your idea would work, here's why I think it won't. Please tell me if I am wrong.

You are half-right, the Feds would have to handle prosecuting companies who hire illegal workers when it crossed state borders, but the states would have the right to prosecute within the state if they chose to write their own law because that’s how it works. And it would be a nightmare unless there was some SERIOUS policy change.

Let me tell you about a trafficking case I was peripherally involved with recently in a series of meeting I attend over at the FBI office.

Human trafficking is a federal offense, but Texas happened to be one of the first states to pass a statewide anti-human trafficking law, which means it can no be handled, sort of, on a local level.

So, we had this case in Austin where a female trafficker was keeping immigrant women locked up in a house and they were forced into prostitution. She had their papers and they could not leave and they were treated in a horrible unimaginable way.

The local law enforcement, having never investigated prostitution through this particular lens, because the state law was new, asked the Feds to do it. The Feds said no, they were too busy. My impression is that the Feds tend to like to get involved in the glamorous cases that end up on TV.

But the Feds were in a mood to share so they handed over their 600 page book on protocol for prosecuting this case which was bigger than a metropolitan phone book. The local law enforcement freaked because they took one look at this set of federal immigration rules, and found they had no one with the time to take it on. Most of the officers were handling so many cases, that they could not even deal with their current caseload.

Because immigration law is very complicated. In immigrant abuse cases, you must get the immigrants to agree to help in the prosecution so you have viable witnesses or there is no case. There usually needs to be translators involved which is costly. If children are involved and some of the forced prostitution cases here have involved young teens, well, minors have to be housed in separate federally designated child facilities. There is one in Houston.

T Visas or U Visas must be issued by the Feds to keep the immigrants here legally to testify in a trial that might be 2 years down the road. They have to be housed, and fed, but sometimes they get antsy and want to bolt, to move on with their life. Or the corporation pays them off to keep quiet. Or the traffickers get to them and tell them they know where their families live and they will kill them back in their homeland if they testify. And immigrants don’t trust the police, because back where they came from, they are all corrupt, so why should they trust or cooperate with them?

So many of the human trafficking cases are pled down, to a lesser crime, like prostitution. In fact, over 95% of all criminal cases in Texas are pled down to alesser offense and I bet you would be shocked to see the numbers in your state. You can go here in Texas and get the open court records and check it out. The reason they are pled down is $$$. It costs too much $ to prosecute all the crimes in this country.

Corporations, of course, know this, and can easily beat most court systems. And the laws passed by the Congress will not take on big business, because the lobbyists make sure of that.

Additionally, there are not enough federal or state prosecutors to take on these cases and not enough $ to fight them and not enough will to hire the law enforcement and crack prosecution teams we need to do this right.

So Big Business has to pay for 2% of the workers when they get caught, they still make millions on the others that are never discovered. Oh, yeah and paperwork without immigrant witnesses would not make a case against a crack defense attorney, which the corporations would assuredly have. Now small businesses are already required to check documentation to make sure their employees are legal, and that documentaion can also be checked, but it doesn't stop the problem. How many people would we have to hire to check every W-2 and social security number? Don't think the money will show up for that venture either. Hell, we can't even catch all those who cheat on their tax returns.

And that’s why I don’t think that pushing up the penalty on companies who hire illegals would really make any difference unless we just want another "feel good" law in place.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Meeting Cesar Chavez

I was sitting in the student Union at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, when I ran into another Panelist, a guy named Joe, who is a filmmaker for a state agency. He used to be one of my Board members. We were both showing films that we had created for our respective agencies. Mine was a Digital Storytelling Project.

We talked lazily about politics and then I told him about meeting Cesar Chavez back in the 1970s. I heard him speak in a tiny rural church in Southeast Austin where he gave an impassioned plea for the rights of farmworkers. There were about 100 people attending. His speech was powerful, eloquent and sincere. He talked about the need for dignity and basic human rights.

I remember going up to the front of the church and shaking his hand.and speaking to him. He was warm and had a way of seeing each person who was before him. He was both humble and charismatic. I was a student at the University of Texas at the time and an activist against the Viet Nam War. My boyfriend and I were tear-gassed in demonstrations that bleak year so many times that we actually lined the short gravel driveway of our rundown rental home in East Austin with the small black round spent tear gas canisters the national guard had shot at us. It kept the grass from growing into the driveway.

Which led Joe and I to the subject of immigration issues. Now Joe's father and mother walked across the Rio Grande back in the 1940s to enter the US. I asked him what he thought about all of the immigration rallies held in the past week or so.

He told me that his parents were migrant workers when they first came to this country. He said his childhood was one of poverty. He was raised by relatives because his parents travelled around so much and they wanted him to have a stable life. When I mentioned that I had been blogging a little about immigration, he stared at me.

Joe: If you write about Bush, you know they will have an FBI file on you.

Me: That's possible, but so what? There are 15 million bloggers on the internet. What are they going to do, arrest all of us who are critical of the Bushies?

Joe: I know a guy named Juan down in Cuero. The cops thought he was an illegal and they broke into his house one night and arrested him. They let him go the next day, when his girlfriend brought his Green card to the station, but he was freaked out for weeks after that.

Me: Hmm, do you think Latinos are generally fearful of the government?

Joe: Not the rich ones, but how many rich Mexicans do you know? The rest of us sure, some. The illegals, a lot. How many times you think a guy gets ripped off or is underpaid by his "employer?" You think he can report that to the cops? Or a woman is sexually assaulted. Think she will report it? They know they'll just be deported. Hell, sometimes the women get raped by the Border Patrol, or coyotes, the people who bring them across. Being illegal makes them a target for people who know that they can treat them like shit and there'll be no consequences.

Me: So what's the answer?

Joe: Give them a reason to buy into the system. They're here. Give them amnesty and end this shit of treating people like animals when they are just trying to survive. There's nothing to go back to for most of the illegals I know. Nothing.

Pissilious Pussilients

Well, Boots over at Consider the Boot, has got it going on. Go read about how she and her partners in scripting the application of purist Pussiliency policy, have created an interesting revisionist framework about weak Democrats who are afraid to go out on a limb and fight back.

Those guys are having fun all day while I am out working to educate the pussiliproletariat who are afraid to speak up about anything.

Boots, this is pure inspiration.

In the DSM, there are many wonderful diagnostic labels to hang like wounded albatrosses around the necks those pussapologist politicians who earn them. Let's see, there are variations:

1. Those who enable weak-ass politicians with pussilency are co-depussilients.

2. The lying smarmy bastards like Tom Delay are smiling sociopussiliopaths, also called psychopussilients, same thing.

There are pussilionarcissists, almost all politicians fit this diagnosis, but for some this personality disorder is a special weakness. Some would say Clinton felt particularly entitled to his pussiliospussy at the expense and the welfare of the country, and although he was pussiliopathological in that department, he was a brilliant strategist and other world leaders respected his statecaft, as opposed to now, when we only have pitiful Tony bLIAR in the Bushleague corner.

Actually, I diverge with mainstream dogma in that I feel that Dean does not quite fit in the Pussilient category at all, as he is somewhat of an articulate he-man with superfluous body hair, as evidenced by his yeaaa-haww, which is no sign of waffling or weakness. And he has a slight 5 o’clock shadow, a sysmptom of testosterone at its finest. Socially, he was just expressing an awkward exuberance. But I would consider him pussilionaive since he didn’t realize that you are never ever to really let your guard down that much, he just needed a pussilioreality check. Also, he spoke out against the war early.

Kerry is an effete pussilious patsy. He also cannot walk or talk without looking and sounding wimpussilient and hesitant. He needed to hire an evil life coach or something…is there a Democratic equivalent to Carl Rove that we could all get behind without going to hell? That New England reserve may work up there, but it don’t fly in the heartland. No, they love to see a man standing on the deck of a military ship wearing flight uniforms with padded codpiece and Misson Accomplished signs waving merrily in the background. No, Kerry has no fire, no passion that feels genuine. It was like he was walking and talking a bad script.

Must want to mention the pussiliopoverty politics of John Edwards. While I respect his work in that area, but the country just doesn't want to hear about poor people. They want to see Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the ring mud-wrestling with nuns in ninja outfits.

The Dems had so many opportunities to probe the weakness of "Where's Bin Laden?" and now the AFL-Cio has come out against guest worker programs, which could take the Dems down again if they don't do a quick pivot. Will they stupidly underestimate the power of the Latino vote as well as the justice of this issue? There are so many instances where the was no voice of reason against the Rove Machine. He was (evilly) brilliant in picking an issue, making his point and hammering on it throughout the entire campaign.

Yeah, I love this. It could be a hit. You could tweak national policy, Boots. Or the noses of some pussilient politicians.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bush Alert: Join Rally Against The Iraq War!!

Come to the Anti-War Rally in Crawford, Texas!!
Easter Weekend!! April 11-16

Leave a comment below to show your support for ending this war!


The Bluebonnets are Here

The Bluebonnets are out in bloom in central texas.
The news from Iraq was so bleak this morning that I felt I needed something uplifting and cheerful.

The roadside flowers are opening en masse under the sweet spring weather. Austin suffered the 10th dryest year in recorded history last year, and I was worried it would affect the spring blooms. When Katrina came inland, and traveled up the corridor east of our city, the force of the hurricane pulled all the moisture out of the air for hundreds of miles. But the wildflowers are back in full force. The winecups and coreopsis are also out in bloom.

I went into work this morning about 7Am. Afer taking a week of vacation, I was ready to get started. I'm speaking on a panel at Texas State University tomorrow, and needed to put together a short opener.

When I turned on my PowerMac, there was a horrible grinding noise, which freaked me out. I've never heard any computer make a noise like that.

I opened the tower and looked inside. The fan was making an incredible racket. I turned it off, worried that if the fan was going out, the hard drive or motherboard could overheat and fry. Luckily, I have everything backed up on a 160 GB external hard drive.

Back home and got on my laptop, Old Faithful. Yeah, my IT guy will take a look at it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Immigration Reform: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

There seems to be a split, not only between members of the Republican party, but across the borders of all political and economic groups when it comes to the issue of immigration reform.

I live in a border state. My family has been here 7 generations. Let me add that the cultural richness that the Latino community contributes to this state is vast. My personal favorite comfort food: enchiladas, queso and Margaritas! There are also religious, familial and social customs Texans embrace that come from a blend of Indian, Mexican, Latin American and Spanish heritage. Immigration reform cannot be fixed without looking at the many issues which affect both sides of border areas.
Deporting people will not stop illegal immigration and the more pervasive cause of immigration, which is lack of jobs and poverty.

Immigration reform is a thorny issue sometimes dividing even those of Latino ancestry. I was in El Paso for a Border Conference a few years ago and visited with some local women of Mexican ancestry. They made comments that puzzled and shocked me in terms of "illegals" coming across the border and into their schools and hospitals, causing overcrowding, taxes and crime to go up. They were angry and resentful.

On more than one occasion I’ve observed that Latinos who are established in this country more than one generation are not always welcoming or tolerant of Latino newcomers. There are, of course, many exceptions to this, Mexican ministers, social workers, immigrant lawers, advocates, promontoras and many others who help. And look a the huge numbers of people who have come to march in solidarity for immigrants in recent days.

There are many problems and hazards for them crossing into this country.

A highway patrol officer told me that some ranchers in west Texas had a policy of shooting "illegals" who crossed their lands and were apt to leave their bodies in the desert as a warning to others who crossed and stole from them to survive.

I know another woman whose parents had adjoining homes and land in a small town on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. Their elderly parents lived in the house next door. They sold their homes a few years ago, homes which had been in their family since the 1920s because every night there were “illegals” breaking into their garages, looking for something to sell to get food. They had reached the point of leaving their garage door open to show that it was empty, it had been broken so many times. They were afraid that their elderly parents would eventually be hurt or killed by desperate, hungry intruders, and so they moved to a region of Texas here they felt safer, away from the border.

Having said that, the root of this problem lies in Mexico, as well as in our public policy. There are not enough good jobs in Mexico. There is as much corruption there as in most countries, however we dwell on their shortcomings while denying our own. The poor on both sides of the border are not cared for. They have forgotten how to grow their own food in many places.

Rootlessness and homelessness are rampant as people crowd toward the border, seeking employment, seeking a better life. Their country and parts of the border is in melt-down mode. Can Americans even imagine how bad conditions would have to get in this country for people to begin crowding into a few metropolitan areas or began crossing over into Canada illegally?

In the maquiladoras, (or maquilas, as they are called locally), factories set up all over the Mexican side of the border, they more often hire women, because they will work cheaper. I heard the women's pay was about $5 a day. This was about 6 years ago, perhaps it is more now, but I doubt it.

There are many indignities that women who work in the maquilas are subjected to. One Mexican woman said that every month her maquila manager asked to see the blood on her Kotex to prove she was not pregnant. Any woman found to be pregnant is fired so the company does not have to provide sick time, or medical benefits. Women are coerced into having abortions they did not want, to keep their jobs. Rape and sexual harassment by American AND Mexican managers is reportedly not uncommon, but is so shameful within Mexican culture that it is not discussed openly, even among women. Women are afraid to report abuse because they will be fired and there are no sexual harassment laws in Mexico anyway. And now some of those factories have closed, outsourcing the jobs to China, so jobs on the border are even scarcer.

In Juarez and El Paso, locals speculate that the rape, mutilation and murder of hundreds of Mexican women in Juarez is happening because men are angry that women are taking their jobs and with it, their masculinity; others in the community think there is psychopathic or cult police involvement in some way. No one is certain, but the atmosphere adds to a jittery edginess one feels along the border.

Some people find a Patron, a wealthy person in the community to work for. Some beg on the street corners from Americans, just like they do in this country. One difference, they often have their small children do the begging. It takes a hard heart to turn away from a hungry, sad-looking child. Others cross the border and find construction jobs. Highways, strip malls and hotels are popping up like mushrooms in the Harlingen/Brownsville area.

And how many Americans are even aware of the colonias, clusters of squatters' housing all over border states; there are some right outside Austin. Thousands of poor live in these shantytowns, scattered in rural areas, often without water or electricity, in cardboard, scrap lumber wired-together shacks.

There are no jobs in the colonias and not enough transportation, little or no education for the children living there. So how do the unmarried women survive? There are always the inevitable cantinas that spring up around or near the colonias. Promontoras (aid workers in the colonias) say some women feel that they have only one option, which is to become prostitutes in the cantinas to survive.

I could stop at this point and add a few pages about the human trafficking problem along the border, women who are sold for prostitution, men who are sold for mostly cheap labor, and we don’t even know the extent of the child sex industry. This is a slavery issue, as they are often held incommunicado, threatened with violence, bound, beaten, etc. I sit on a community task group for Trafficking victims and have heard from the counselors about the layer upon layer of trauma that is the result of forced prostitution. Not only illegal Mexican women are subjected to this, but the Feds have busted trafficking prostitution groups involving Vietmanese women, Somalians, Costa Ricans, etc, trafficked into the Texas ports and also trafficked from Eastern Europe and Asia to Mexico and then across into Texas.

Another item: I met with an AIDS service agency in the Harlingen area, which is a border town, about 30 miles north of South Padre Island. The AIDS agency reported that the three-county area had over 10,000 cases of HIV-positive individuals or full-blown AIDs. Prostitution, particularly male prostitution was rampant in he parks, and AIDS workers were going into the parks at night to distribute free condoms. Most of the Johns were reportedly white American males, many of whom were married. How many are bringing this disease home to their wives? And why isn’t this front page news, an AIDS rate that is almost as prevalent as some places in Africa?

I don’t have the answer to the complex immigration problem, but compassion is a place to start. Are we going to round up tens of thousands of people and deport them to starve? How many billions have we spent on a worthless war in Iraq while the face of dire hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and disease exist in our very backyard.

Brother, can you spare a dime?